|1/16/2014 5:00:00 PM|
What is Wisconsin's Future?
by Denise ThorntonIowa County needs to be better prepared for natural disasters, cautioned Iowa County Emergency Government Coordinator Keith Hurlbert last Thursday at the first of a four-part educational series, Floods, Droughts, Land and Energy - What is Wisconsin's Future?
"Think about the storms you've seen in the media in the past two years: the tornadoes that hit Joplin Missouri and Alabama, the perfect storm that hit the East Coast and the record-setting storm in Oklahoma City," Hurlbert said. "These storms are increasing in frequency and growing in size. That's why climate change is important to me and to all of us. We emergency managers get concerned about how well people in our area are prepared for disaster."
Hulbert advised that checking the website ready.wi.gov is a great way to learn how to be prepared.
In the event of a disaster, help may take days to reach you, or you might have to evacuate at a moment's notice. The website offers suggestions of how to create a basic survival kit as well as an evacuation kit of essential belongings and provides a step-by-step Online Family Emergency Planner.
"Climate change is raising the odds of disasters," Hurlbert said. "How would you handle closed roads and downed power lines? It's my job to help people think about how to be prepared for disaster."
"There are both risks and opportunities in climate change," said David S. Liebl, University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Statewide Outreach Educator Specialist. Liebl's part of the presentation focused on how climate change is going to affect our county.
Liebl's information comes from the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI), representing about 200 Wisconsin scientists along with private and public decision-makers. WICCI was formed in the fall of 2007, by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the University of Wisconsin Institute for Environmental Studies to help Wisconsin citizens and policy makers plan for the future.
WICCI has put away the crystal ball in favor of the computer to generate projections based on past weather patterns. "We've been measuring temperature and rainfall in Wisconsin since the 1800s, and while the number of hot days has changed very little, since 1950 subzero nights have become much less frequent," Liebl said.
Depending on where you are in the state, the growing season has increased by one to four weeks, and along with warmer weather we've had more rainfall. "Warmer air can hold more moisture, and when it cools, we get more precipitation. Six of our 10 wettest days in the last 140 years have occurred have occurred in the last 30 years."
"Human-caused climate change is a settled issue among climate scientists", said Liebl. WICCI has taken published models of the world's climate created by 13 different research groups to develop an expert projection for Wisconsin. "There will be more rainfall and less snowfall during winter and spring," Liebl said. "Wisconsin will warm by three to nine degrees the middle of this century."
When asked how he could talk about Global Warming when everyone had come through subzero temperatures to attend the presentation, Liebl explained that the warming of the Arctic is weakening the jet stream. We are seeing the jet stream take a more wandering path, bringing us more extreme swings of both cold and hot weather. "Altogether, we are seeing many more high temperature records being broken than low temperature records. That's connected to the average warming of the globe," he said.
"Wetter winters and springs can cause a rise in ground water like the one Spring Green experienced a few years ago," said Liebl. "We are seeing more and more ground water becoming contaminated when ground water rises to the level of sewer pipes. Heavy rainfall on frozen ground can also cause flooding."
In summer, Liebl said we can expect less rainfall and even prolonged drought in the last half of July through September. He noted that you can see more high-capacity wells being dug in the Driftless Area already. "What will that mean for municipal ground water?" he asked.
Warmer, drier summers will affect the state's trout population. Trout need cool water to breed. "Wisconsin's trout streams bring millions of dollars to our state when people come here to fish. It will be too hot for brook trout in Wisconsin by the end of the century," he said. "And ruffed grouse will be gone by then too."
Liebl agreed with Hurlbert that communities need to plan ahead for these changes. How far do we need to look ahead? He noted that buildings are planned for a 25-50 year life span and water and sewers are planned to last more than 50 years.
"We cannot make these plans assuming everything will stay the same as it was when we were growing up," said Liebl. He urged the audience to learn more at the website climatewisconsin.org, which contains a group of videos on how climate change is affecting Wisconsin ice fishing, forestry, fly fishing and the traditional Birkebeiner ski race.
This educational series is being sponsored by Iowa County Emergency Management, Iowa County UW-Extension, Grassroots Citizens of Wisconsin, Sustain Iowa County and Driftless Area Land Conservancy.
There will be three more presentations in the series on upcoming alternate Thursday nights: January 22, Wisconsin's Energy Profile - How do we move to a low-carbon economy. February 12, The Challenge of Understanding Wisconsin Impacts in a Changing Climate - Learning from the Past, Estimating the Future. February 26, a movie - Earth, the Operator's Manual. All presentations are from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Community Room of the Health and Human Services Building, 303 W. Chapel St., Dodgeville.
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